Tag Archives: lists

Back to basics!

Back in January 1996, I had a simple goal of reading 1 book per week, or 52 books a year. It’s funny how simple things evolve. Not long after I set my goal, I decided I needed a way to capture the list of books that I read. I started, naturally enough, using an Excel file, which worked fine, but it had it’s limits. For one thing, at least back in 1996, it was not easy to post my Excel file on the web and I wanted to share my progress. So I switched to HTML. Of course, that led to ever more creative ways for managing the list. My HTML evolved into delimited list files, processed by a set of perl scripts. There was still quite a bit of manual work involved, but this worked well for a while. Years later, it seemed that the thing to do was to convert all of the perl scripts to PHP and store the lists in a relational database–which I did on my local machine. I then wrote scripts to upload changes to my website each night. This worked pretty well, too. Finally, I evolved an elaborate SQL database and a collection of massive PHP scripts all of which was hosted at my ISP.

But there was always a problem: I never had the time to fully develop the interfaces to these applications to make them easy to update and maintain. So while I had the scripts and the pretty HTML lists, I still was essentially typing SQL commands to update the database.

Over the last several months, I haven’t been updating my reading list the way I used to and it occurred to me that if after 11 years, I could not come up with an easy system for maintaining the list, I would never come up with it. These days, I have neither the time nor the inclination to do it, so today, I gave up and went back to basics on a number of levels.

First, I went back to a slightly more elaborate (and better designed) version of my original excel spreadsheet from back in 1996. It’s more elaborate only in that I know a lot more about Excel now than I did then and am able to do some things more elegantly. But it is incredibly easy to maintain. It takes me less than a minute to add a book to my list!

Second, I have fought a constant battle of page design, trying to keep up with various trends in look and feel, RSS, AJAX and all of the rest of the stuff that makes the web look so good these day. It’s a losing battle for me. I do this stuff constantly at work and I simply don’t want to do it at home anymore. So I decided to eschew all ornamentation and go back to basic, circa 1996 HTML. No style sheets. No fancy formatting. But it’s clear, easy to read, and presents the information without an effort on my part.

I’ve consolidated my new reading list into one single page, rather than a page for each year.

To make up for this retro look and feel, I’ve added some new things. First, I’ve reinstated my favorite books page, which went away several years back. This is a page that lists my all-time favorite books, books which I have given 5 out of 5 stars. Second, I update the FAQ for the list. Last, but not least, I developed a consolidated statistics page and packed it with all kinds of new information that I’ve never posted before. For people who are interested in that kind of stuff, it’s pretty cool.

These pages are easy to update from my master spreadsheet and so I don’t anticipate them getting stale again. I also don’t anticipate any fancy interface updates. It’s plain vanilla, but it works. And best of all, I feel as though a great weight has been lifted from my shoulders.

Top 10 albums for writing code

Today is a code-writing day at work. There is also construction going on outside the building and there is intermittent bone-jarring noise that has already developed into a headache. Headaches are rare for me so you get the idea. I was about to put on my iPod to block out the sound when it occurred to me that I have been meaning to post what are, for me, the top 10 albums for writing code. Keep in mind that I personally feel more productive when I listening to these albums while casting out spells of C# or Transact-SQL or PHP or Perl. The downside is that I am so focused, I usually don’t hear the songs. The list is alphabetcial by album title.

The list

I’m not the only one…

Yes, it is true that I have kept lists of what I have read since 1996. And I have followed along with another fellow who has lists all the way back to 1974.

But today I discovered someone who has both of us beat and it is none other than Art Garfunkel (yes, that one). It seems in addition to writing songs, recording albums, and playing concerts, Mr. Garfunkel has managed to read 980 books since 1968. And I’m not talking about fluff books either. The list is pretty impressive. (During the month that I was born, for instance, he was reading Albert Schweitzer’s J. S. Bach, Volume 1.)

How does he manage to find the time?

The new MySQL-based reading lists

Enough of the infrastructure is in place where so that my new MySQL/PHP-based reading lists are available. They are far from finished, and functionality is minimal at the moment. No stats yet. Just a basic stylesheet, some queries and presentation of some of the data.

All of my reading back through 1996 is available, and if you want to take a look at a “beta” version of the new design, check it out at:

http://www.jamierubin.net/reading/list.cgi

The nice thing about this is that it integrates seamlessly with (and will eventually have links in to) my book collection database. At some point in the near future, I will post the data model and you can see for yourself how cool this really is.

Top-earning dead celebrities

In one of it’s more obscure lists, Forbes recently released its list of top-earning dead celebrities. At the top of the list (and the reason it was newsworthy) was Kurt Cobain, who recently overtook Elvis as the top dead earner ($50 million in the last year alone).

But of all of the celebrities on the list, 2 stood out and 1 surprised me.

Those that stood out to me (and I was pleased in both cases) were Charles M. Schulz who, at #3, earned a cool $35 million last year. I’ve always enjoyed the Peanuts cartoon. I take it as a sign of popularity that it is still selling. (Of course, a lot of the money comes from licensing rights, but that still indicates a level of popularity.)

Also on the list was author Theodore Geisel, also known as Dr. Seuss. At #7 on the list, Dr. Seuss earned $10 million in the last year. I grew up with Dr. Seuss books. I learned how to read from Dr. Seuss books. I’m glad to see that they are still popular too.

Most surprising on the list, at least to me, was #5, Albert Einstein. That’s right, the guy who came up with E = mc2 earned $20 million in the last year, most of which came from rights to his name and likeness. He is still probably the most recognized scientist in the world, and he hasn’t been around for 52 years.

It was an interesting list, and I am happy for these three dead people. On the flip side, it is somewhat depressing to think that there are dead people out there making two orders of magnitude more money than someone like me, who is still alive and kicking, and working (relatively) hard. Sometimes.

Best of Metallica

It is almost pointless to do a “best of” list for Metallica because all of their stuff before the Black Album is so good, you could almost say that their first four albums and EP are their “best of” list. But I was listening to Metallica on the way to the book store yesterday, and I’m listening to them now, and I’ve put some thought into it. So if I were producing a Metallica “best of” album, the set would go as follows:

  1. “Whiplash” (from Kill ‘Em All)
  2. “Breadfan” (from “Garage Days Revisited)
  3. “Stone Cold Crazy” (from Garage Days Revisited)
  4. “Hit the Lights” (from Kill ‘Em All)
  5. “Fade to Black” (from Ride the Lightning)
  6. “Master of Puppets” (from Master of Puppets)
  7. “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” (from Master of Puppets)
  8. “Damage, Inc.” (from Master of Puppets)
  9. “One” (from And Justice For All)
  10. “To Live Is To Die” (from And Justice For All)

And of course, no “best of” album is complete without a few “bonus” tracks. Call them “honorable mentions”:

  • “Last Caress / Green Hell” (from Garage Days, Revisited)
  • “So What?” (from Garage Days, Revisited)
  • “Battery” (from Master of Puppets)
  • “Enter Sandman” (from The Black Album, but only because it’s Mariano Rivera’s theme song)

So there you have it. My “best of” list for Metallica. Now for my “best of Enya” list…